Literally Zero Words: A Digital Art Experience
Updated: Apr 4
What is it?
Literally Zero Words is a digital experience with zero words. The minimalist website contains only emojis, flags, and interactive maps to navigate an experience to display the natural beauty of landscapes and architecture around the world.
The goal of this project is for anybody, regardless of location or language, to have an equal shared experience on Literally Zero Words. This is one of the few online projects that has no linguistic bias. Visitors might learn a new flag, discover a whole new country, or see their hometown in great beauty.
The experience currently features 38 regions within 29 different countries around Europe, Asia, and North America. The experience will expand alongside my travel, and new content will be added as my travels take me to new places. I will soon be in Sri Lanka, Oman, and Turkey to the experience.
Q: Why are you doing this?
A: I've been travelling the world for a while now (visiting over 40 countries in the last few years), and I've amassed a massive library of images. I didn't know what to do with them, and I didn't want to make a photography portfolio or website, as I've seen hundreds of them and they're all quite similar. I wanted to experiment with creating a new platform to present it, in a way that I haven't seen done. This is my inspiration to go through my thousands of photos, and sort/edit/present them!
Q: Why are there no words on this project?
A: If you are reading this, you understand English which makes you privileged in this era of information since most of the online world is written in English, or at least some other commonly used language. This project will be interpreted in the same way even if you only speak Hungarian, Uyghur, or Burmese! With this project I am learning about breaking through linguistic barriers and how emojis can be used to replace language.
Q: Did you take all these photos?
A: Yes, all of these photos are mine. I am a digital nomad that travels around the world with a Fujifilm XT-20 Camera.
Q: I don't know all the world's flags, how should I use the page?
A: The goal of this project is to spark your curiosity, so you can click on random flags and guess what they are using photos in the galleries. If you want to make it easier, look at the name of the tab, or URL link. That will display the English name of the country, city, and/or category. The map should give you an idea of which region the country is located.
Q: How can I help with this project?
A: Share! When you share the link on Facebook or Twitter, a beautiful image comes up with a catchy name to get people to click. I'm designing this in a way to help make it go viral. Share it with your local/favourite news or media publications. Also, contact me if you have any feedback or ideas!
Q: How am I reading this, if there are meant to be no words?
A: This experience is still under construction, and I want to learn how to best optimize the experience. I am adding this page temporarily, to give you an idea of what to expect. When I launch the project, I plan to remove this link on the front page. The only words used in this project are in the URL, and the name of the tab.
Q: Why is the quality inconsistent?
A: I started travelling in 2015, with just an iPhone 6 for photos. As time went on, I got a slightly better camera phone, and finally upgraded to the Fujifilm in 2017. Some of the countries (France, Netherlands, Italy, Slovakia, Poland, Czechia, Belarus, Mexico) only have phone photos. The rest have much higher quality photos. I'm hoping to return to the above countries and update the galleries with better photos in the future.
Q: Why are some emojis so unimaginative like ⬆️ for North
A: I'm always thinking about what better emojis might represent a place. If you can think of a better emoji for a specific city/country/province, let me know and I would love to improve. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Will you be adding new emojis and galleries?
A: Yes! I am constantly working to add new galleries. If you are a tourism board that wants to have your country/city featured, please contact me! I would love to partner with cities or tourism organizations to inspire travel!
Q: Have you learned anything in the process
A: I've learned a lot about how people perceive emojis, and how that differs based on location. For example, I asked multiple people which emoji they thought represented "Europe" better:
🏛 or 🏰
For reference, the first emoji is officially titled 'Classical Building' and the latter is "European Castle".
Through my research I that I realized is that many Americans think of a courthouse, library, or the White House when presented with the first emoji. The second emoji did represent Europe for most Americans.
Europeans think of Greece or Rome when presented with the first, and Central/Eastern Europe when presented with the second, both representing Europe.
In this case, it made more sense to use the 🏰'European Castle' emoji to represent Europe.
*I did not want to use 🇪🇺to represent Europe because a)Many of the countries in the project are not part of the European Union and b) there is no alternative emoji flag for other continents.
Q: Can I display my own photos on this platform
A: Yes, I would love to collaborate! You can contact me, and we can discuss details. Since there are no words, I can have a 👤emoji on the page linking to your page.
Q: Can I use the photos for my personal project/business/art/etc.?
A: Please contact me first.
Q: Who are you?
Q: Isn't this project SEO suicide to have no words on your website?
A: I thought so too, but within a week of creating the website, it's ranking at #1 on google for the project name (Literally Zero Words). To be honest, I don't expect the pages to rank highly on Google.
Q: Where have you travelled to?